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Queen Mary: the myth and a somewhat more balanced reality

In a newsletter earlier this year, I had an entry on the phrase “Bloody Mary” and mentioned that the drink to which it refers was named after Queen Mary, daughter of Henry VIII, who persecuted Protestants in an attempt to return England to Catholicism. A newsletter reader, Frank C., wrote to say that this “persecution” was […]

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JohnTrumbull

Top 10 books about gangsters, Trumbull’s portrait of Washington, and hurricane news: newsletter, July 13, 2018

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,197) on July 13, 2018 Hiding in plain sight in the American psyche is the concept of The Road. The Great American Highway is not just a tool to get from place to another. It’s an indelible symbol of the freedom to move, the sense […]

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WoodrowWilson

The Great War, Woodrow Wilson, and the savaging of the idea of America

Wilson, in declaring war on Germany in 1917, also declared war on a good portion of America as well.

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ClaudeChappe

A telegraph network 50 years before the telegraph – le systeme Chappe

A full half-century before Samuel Morse demonstrated his electric telegraph system in America, a long-distance and extremely effective communication network existed in France. The network was developed by Claude Chappe (1763-1805), a scientist who realized that the human eye was an excellent device for discerning angles, even at long distances. He took that idea and developed […]

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Mr. Whicher

Criticizing the police, from the very beginning

Criticizing the police and their methods — and defending them — has never been out of fashion. It’s been part of the social fabric since the Metropolitan Police Force was officially organized in London in 1829 by Sr. Robert Peel. In America, the criticisms often involve race. In Great Britain of the 19th century, the […]

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Charles Willson Peale (caricature)

Charles Willson Peale and the image of the American Revolution

A big part of George Washington’s image was, well, Washington’s image. What Washington looked like was essential — more important than we probably understand — to what we think of him and ultimately how we think of America. The American revolutionaries of the 18th century understood that very well. It was an age well before […]

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Sam Ervin, chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee

Slow Burn: a podcast series about Watergate

If you lived through the Watergate crisis (1972-1974), you probably remember a lot about what happened and about the major characters, such as John Dean, Richard Nixon, John Ehrlichman, etc. And you probably remember how it felt to have a new development in the story just about every day. It was an interesting, often thrilling, […]

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George Frederick Handel

Handel was washed up – then came Messiah

Handel, who had lived in England for more than a quarter of a century. had never really ruled the operatic circles of London. It is too tough of a town for that. But the German-born musical genius had led his faction, and they loved him for it. By the mid-1730s, however, Handel had begun to lose […]

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Landing Zone by

The distrust engendered by Vietnam did not begin with the American people; it began with the American government

Proof of the government’s lies about Vietnam can be found in many people, most notably a set of documents that government officials put together while the war was still being fought that we know as the Pentagon Pap

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The Chandos portrait

Shakespeare’s appearance remains a mystery – but we have lots of clues

We have a general idea of what William Shakespeare looked like, but we do not have a confirmed contemporary portrait of him. Like many other things about The Bard, his appearance remains a mystery.

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Jackie Kennedy Onassis

A portrait of Jackie Kennedy as a teenager, and then a lawsuit; then there’s a new biography

A portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier Lee, a.k.a. Jackie Kennedy, depicting her as a teenager, has appeared in a Long Island art gallery and has sparked a federal lawsuit brought by some of her relatives. The relatives say it is stolen. The art gallery owner says it is not and that he has doubts that the […]

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Franklin Roosevelt caricature

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt: Masters of radio

By their ninth year in the White House, the Roosevelts had become masters of the medium of radio. Franklin had a soft but strong modulating voice. His was a natural. He sounded like your favorite uncle: serious, cheerful, informed and confident. Eleanor, as usual, had to work harder and longer. She did that and became […]

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WilliamShakespeare-3

Inspiration for a genius: recent discovery of a book that Shakespeare may have used for his writing

Because Leonardo da Vinci kept a vast quantity of journals, we have a good idea about how his mind worked, what he was thinking about, and what he saw. With William Shakespeare, we have no such record. And William Shakespear is the reason we have the English language as it is today.

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Happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln!

Happy birthday, Mr. Lincoln

I tried to construct a portrait that was fairly close to realistic and without too much distortion for my birthday tribute to Mr. Lincoln. But the body, of course, is very much in the caricature mode.

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Leonardo's drawings of cats

Leonardo’s journals: A large window into the mind of a genius

The mind of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) still fascinates observers even after 500 years. He was interested in so many things, and he observed the world with the mind and attitude of a scientist, mechanic, inventor, naturalist, and philosopher. He was also a writer. And an artist, of course. We know about Leonardo’s mind because […]

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Eugene Francois Vidocq

The ‘private eye’ in literature begins with the real-life character of Eugene Francois Vidocq

The place to look for the origins of the literary private eye is in 19th century France with the character of Eugene Francois Vidocq.

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703-AW-CemeteryHillprePickettCharge-21315v

Civil War Trust provides excellent video introduction to Gettysburg

Gettysburg is so iconic — particularly because of the Gettysburg Address that Abraham Lincoln delivered four months after the battle — that we tend to lose sight of what it meant to the people who lived during the war.

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Images of Abraham Lincoln

What did Lincoln look like?

The 19th century was just as image conscious as our age, and one of the masters of image was Abraham Lincoln. The sidebar on page 389 of Journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why and How tells about a famous photo of Lincoln that was used in the election campaign of 1860.

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The Silent Sentinels outside the White House, 1917

In which I answer the question, “What’s next?”, part 2: the suffrage ladies and me

The suffrage ladies may not be done with me. Those were the women who, between 1910 and 1920, affected the most profound change in the make-up of the electorate in the history of the Republic. In 2013, Seeing Suffrage was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The book was about the 1913 Washington suffrage […]

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Jane Burleson, grand marshal of the 1913  Washington Suffrage Parade, halts at the beginning of the parade to see that the participants are following her.

Seeing Suffrage: Starting the 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade

Sometime around 3:20 p.m. on March 3, 1913, Jane Burleson gave the signal, and the 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade commenced on Pennsylvania Avenue. A short time after that, the arc of the suffrage movement changed markedly.

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